List of religious leaders convicted of crimes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is a list of religious leaders who have been convicted of serious crimes before, during or after their period as a religious leader.

Violent crimes[edit]

  • Tony Alamo - Headed a Santa Clarita commune. Convicted of tax evasion in 1994 and then resided in a halfway house in Texarkana.[1] In 2009, he was convicted of ten federal counts of taking minors across state lines for sex, and sentenced to 150 years in federal prison.[2]
  • Shoko Asahara - Founder of Aum Shinrikyo sentenced to death by hanging under Japanese law for involvement in the 1995 Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.[3]
  • Wayne Bent (aka: Michael Travesser) - Founder of Lord Our Righteousness Church, sometimes called Strong City. Was convicted of one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor in 2008.[4] He was sentenced to 18 years with eight years suspended.[5]
  • Graham Capill - former leader of Christian Heritage New Zealand. Sentenced to a nine-year imprisonment term in 2005 after multiple charges of child sexual abuse against girls younger than twelve.[6]
  • Matthew F. Hale - Former leader of Creativity Movement sentenced to a 40-year prison term for soliciting an undercover FBI informant to kill a federal judge.[7]
  • Warren Jeffs - Once President of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (a polygamist Mormon sect), convicted of rape as an accomplice (overturned in 2010). Jeffs was convicted in a Texas state court of child sex charges and sentenced to life plus 20 years. He is incarcerated at the Powledge state prison. He also awaits trial in other states and in the federal court system.[8]
  • Jung Myung Seok - South Korean religious sect leader and founder of Providence. Convicted for raping several of his followers.[9]
  • William Kamm - An Australian religious sect leader who was sentenced to prison in October 2005 for a string of sexual attacks on a 15-year-old girl. In August 2007 his sentence was increased after being found guilty for a series of sexual abuses against another teenage girl over a five-year period.[10]
  • Ervil LeBaron - Led a small sect of polygamous Mormon fundamentalists, and was convicted of involvement in the murder of two people and plotting to kill another person in 1981.[11]
  • Alice Lenshina - Zambian head and founder of the Lumpa Church. Conflicts with the government over the sect's rejection of taxes led to a violent confrontation and her subsequent imprisonment.[12]
  • Jeffrey Lundgren - Headed splinter group from Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, executed on October 24, 2006, for multiple murders.[13]
  • Charles Manson - Leader of the Manson Family who served life in prison for first degree murder until his death in 2017.[14]
  • Shukri Mustafa - Egyptian leader of Takfir wal-Hijra who was captured and executed on March 19, 1978, for the kidnapping and murder of an Egyptian ex-government minister.[15]
  • Fred Phelps - Leader of anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church. Convicted for disorderly conduct and battery.[16][17]
  • Swami Premananda of Tiruchirapalli - Indian religious leader convicted and sentenced to two life sentences for the rape of 13 girls and murder in 2005.[18]
  • Theodore Rinaldo - Leader of a religious group in Snohomish, Washington convicted of third-degree statutory rape for having sexual intercourse with one minor girl and of taking indecent liberties with another.[19]
  • Paul Schäfer - Former head of Chile-based Colonia Dignidad, was convicted of sexually abusing 25 children.[20]
  • Keith Raniere - The founder of NXIVM, a multi-level marketing company and cult based near Albany, New York. Raniere was convicted of racketeering on the charges of sex trafficking, sexual exploitation of a child, attempted sex trafficking, identity theft, forced labor, conspiracy to alter records, conspiracy of sex trafficking, forced labor, racketeering, and wire fraud. Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in federal prison starting in January 2021.[21][22]
  • Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh - an Indian guru, music producer, singer-songwriter, actor, and filmmaker. He has been the head of the social group Dera Sacha Sauda since 1990. On 28 August 2017, Singh was sentenced to 20 years in jail for rape.[23] He has also faced prosecution for murder and ordering forced castrations. He is also alleged to have committed sexual assaults on many of his followers. He is also alleged to be involved in the murder of a journalist[24]
  • Roch Thériault - Former head of "Ant Hill Kids commune" served a life sentence in Canada for the murder of Solange Boislard.[25]
  • Yahweh Ben Yahweh - Head of Nation of Yahweh, convicted for Federal racketeering charges and conspiracy involving 14 murders.[26]
  • Dwight York - Head of Nuwaubianism, convicted in 2004 of multiple RICO, child molestation, and financial reporting charges and sentenced to 135 years in prison.[27]

Non-violent crimes[edit]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ CNN
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  5. ^ "New Mexico Apocalyptic Sect Leader Gets 10 Years in Sex Case". AP. Las Vegas, N.M: Fox News. December 31, 2008. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
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